How Effective Leaders Motivate People

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Effective leaders know how to motivate people to want to do what needs to be done by effectively using these three motivational factors.

Many people are surprised to discover that money is not one of the top three.

Motivating people in the workplace is often linked to money, and with good reason. Getting a paycheck is one of the main reasons people go to work in the first place. But as far as a reason, or motive, for completing tasks, it’s not very high on the list.

Even if you inherit new team members from another department and you know nothing about the people you’ll be leading, you can tailor these three factors so they will motivate the entire team. This is how leaders create sustainable, high-performing teams.

Now, let’s take a look at the top motivational factor – appreciation.

The Most Powerful Motivator

Though it’s the most powerful of the three factors, appreciation must be used appropriately; that old saying about “too much of a good thing” definitely applies here. If an employee hears how great he is doing every day—no matter what quality of work he’s turning out—this appreciation becomes meaningless to him. It comes across as a fake managerial tactic to coerce him to get the work done.

Words of praise don’t work for everyone. In fact, they can turn some people off. The trick here is to know what each person will respond to and make sure that they get it.

Appreciating People Correctly

Let’s go back to our bicycle analogy to see how, as a leader, you can utilize appreciation most effectively in correlation with communication priorities. If you are not familiar with the terms”back wheel” and “front wheel,” take a minute and read the Communication Skills at a Higher Level article.

Now, let’s add in communication pace:

And finally, we can put priority and pace together to come up with a full picture of the different approaches you might take in order to most effectively reach your team members:

Faster-Paced, Back Wheel

Faster-paced, back-wheel communicators are motivated by public, tangible appreciation. These team members tend to have large houses and luxury cars. Their offices commonly have walls full of plaques and awards.

Publicly given, tangible signs of appreciation keep them motivated because they like having something that they and others can see.

Faster-Paced, Front Wheel

Faster-paced, front-wheel communicators are motivated by one-minute praise sessions. Intangible terms like “wonderful work,” “fabulous improvement,” and “outstanding job” motivate these team members.

They are likely to not only show you their letters of praise from clients but ask you to read them aloud and post them on the department bulletin board as well.

Slower-Paced, Front Wheel

Slower-paced, front-wheel communicators prefer their appreciation to be more private. To them, public praise is an instant turn-off. Meet with these team members one-on-one to communicate with them, and use phrases such as “the team” and “the contributions your team has made.”

If time does not allow a personal meeting, leave a card or sticky note on their desk to acknowledge their efforts. They’ll save them, and when they need a burst of energy, pull them out and re-read them.

Slower-Paced, Back Wheel

Slower-paced, back-wheel communicators are motivated by GOMB: Get off my back. “Employee appreciation days” are like punishment to them; you’ll rarely see them at a company picnic unless attendance is mandatory. These employees say, “Don’t tell me I’m wonderful. Just let me do my job.”

Giving them responsibility in conjunction with authority creates a high level of motivation; this form of recognition communicates that you trust their expertise.

Take a minute after reading this information and think about how many times you may have missed the mark because you demotivated someone instead of motivating them. This insight on your part can make a difference starting today.

By tailoring your approach to appreciation according to an individual’s communication style, you will experience significant results in individual performance and overall productivity.

How Should Leaders Motivate People?

If you have ideas motivating people that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Would you like to contribute a post?

Dr. Mary Kay on FacebookDr. Mary Kay on Twitter
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
  • David McCuistion says:

    I have used Letters of Commendation, Appreciation and Certificates of Praise for year that goes back to my Navy days and through my teaching career.

    At my last job there is an award called The Lighthouse Award that each semester recognizes an Administrator, Teacher or Classified employee. As Custodial Supervisor I always nominated a custodian or Security Moniter for their many achievements during the semester. Thourgh my efforts, the award was split to separate classified employees from Administrators/Teachers. Immediately, my custodians were awarded the recognition.

    Typing up a Certificate of Appreciation using MS Word takes little time, but the recognition is remember over time.

    Recognition is the key to employee motivation. Even a simple “Thank You” reaps enormous gains.


  • Addie Davis, Ph.D says:

    People like it when they are appreciated for the things they do. Saying “Thank you” goes a long way. I do this often with my staff. I, too, listen to what they have to say and thank them for their input. I am always thinking of ways to show my appreciation and to let the staff know that I value them and the work that they do, and to let them know that their input is important.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    Brilliant Leadership Logo

    Improve Yourself & Your Team

    Get The Training Proven By 40,000+ Leaders